Boy looking out of the window, looking worried

Practitioners' concerns for issues facing young people

Type Policy and research document

Published on
1 June 2022

Barnardo's has teamed up with King’s College London to find out what our support practitioners view as the most important issues facing young people. 

Our in-depth research done in collaboration with academics from King’s College London analysed data from quarterly surveys of Barnardo’s frontline workers across the UK to assess what practitioners view as the most important issues facing young people, and how these issues changed between June 2019 and November 2021. 

Our practitioners told us that children face a mental health emergency, heightened online dangers and a lack of support until reaching ‘crisis point’. ​​​​​

What does our evidence show?

Our joint research found that our practitioners are particularly concerned about five key issues facing young people:

1. Increasing mental health issues and insufficient support 

Practitioners increasingly emphasised mental health concerns since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. New serious mental health issues are reportedly on the rise due to a lack of prevention work, social isolation during the pandemic, and anxiety about future prospects.  

2. Poverty, financial instability, and inequality 

Practitioners raised concerns about cuts to key support services, rising poverty levels, financial instability, and widening inequality. They also reported that the disruption to education has impacted young people’s learning, social development, and future employment prospects. Additionally, the care system was reported to be insufficiently supporting young people, particularly care leavers. 

...What hope would an 18-year-old have if they have no home, their family can’t afford to keep them, they can’t afford to feed themselves? What sort of future do they imagine they will have?

Barnardo's practitioner

3. Potential exposure to sexual exploitation and online abuse

The concern about online exploitation and victimisation has grown since the pandemic. The focus of concern was mostly on how young people might be exposed to sexual exploitation and online abuse

4. Lack of safety and cohesion in the home 

Practitioners were concerned that vulnerable adolescents were trapped in homes with increasing conflict during COVID-19 restrictions. Instability in parent and carer mental health was also thought to have adversely impacted young people. 

5. Poor transition between services for young people

​​Practitioners were concerned about the abrupt transition, or lack of transition, between services pre-18 and post-18. They highlighted that support services are needed to make provisions for young people aged 18 and over, especially those in the care system

More young people [are] struggling with their mental health, impacting on a whole host of other areas - schooling, sense of self-worth, body image, self-harm, eating disorders.

Barnardo's practitioner

What needs to happen?

Our analysis of our practitioners’ perspectives has raised some urgent issues that must be addressed by policy-makers and other decision-makers. Here is a brief summary of our recommendations to improve the mental health, wellbeing, and livelihoods of the next generation.

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Ask the government to provide mental health support in all schools

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